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Wildflowers of Mariposa

The first wild flowers make their appearance in late February and then increase in abundance until April or May. The best time to view the wild flowers varies from year to year, depending on the weather, but when the peak flowering occurs it is not unusual to see 50 to 60 different species of flowers. Most of Mariposa County is dry and provides excellent habitat for typical oak-grassland wild flowers such as_ poppies, brodiaeas, and goldfields. Also there are areas along seeps and streams that provide conditions for a strikingly different flora. Here are found the common monkey flowers, shooting stars, fiesta flowers, waterfall buttercups, and many other plants that are uncommon because they will not stray far from moisture.

Although these areas are small in size, they are large in diversity and provide endless fascination. However be aware of the ever present poison oak. The dry shaded ground under the oaks and shrubs provides another specialized habitat to which certain plants are adapted. Fairy lanterns, baby blue eyes, and Indian pinks may be found. And finally, the river bars have their own characteristic flora that is quite different from most of the trail side areas. Many of these plants, such as buttonbush, California fuchsia, and Sierra sweet bay, bloom late in season after the river level has dropped.

There once were many hillsides and canyons in the central Sierra covered by spring wild flowers in a profusion of color. Now, because of grazing, dam building, mining, logging and other human intrusions throughout much of the middle elevations of the Sierra Nevada, the South Fork of the Merced River remains one of the natural oakĀ­ grassland wild flowers community that has been preserved.